Bloomberg reports that the Pentagon’s inspector general is going to review the U.S. Air Force’s certification process for SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy.
“Our objective is to determine whether the U.S. Air Force complied with the Launch Services New Entrant Certification Guide when certifying the launch system design for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle-class SpaceX Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles,” the inspector general said in a memo to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson sent on Monday.
The Air Force’s certification of SpaceX in 2015 allowed the company take on military payloads, bringing competition to military space launches that were being handled solely by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between top defense contractors Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. At the time, Musk said he was getting into the business in part to end a monopoly…
The memo to Wilson was signed by Michael Roark, deputy for intelligence and special program assessments. It didn’t give a reason for what prompted the evaluation. Bruce Anderson, a spokesman for the inspector general, didn’t have an immediate comment as to what led to the evaluation.
Kara Swisher of Recode posted an interview with Elon Musk last week. Below are lightly edited excepts concerning SpaceX and Musk’s plans for Mars.
Well let’s get to rockets, then. SpaceX. Last time we talked, you said you wanted to die on Mars, just not on landing. Which was a very funny joke, although it’s probably not a joke, it’s probably —
Well, it’d be ironic if that had happened. I have to be careful about tempting fate, because I think often the most ironic outcome is the most probable….
Instead of discussing your death, let’s discuss what’s going on at SpaceX. What are some of the things you’re doing?
We successfully launched the Falcon Heavy rocket, which is the most powerful rocket in the world by a factor of two. So that’s twice the power, twice the thrust of the next biggest rocket. And we actually launched a Tesla — my Tesla Roadster — to Mars orbit. The reason we did that is actually because, normally, when a new rocket is launched, you just put a dummy payload, which is like a block of concrete or something. (more…)
CARLSBAD, Calif., Oct. 25, 2018 (Viasat PR) — Viasat Inc., (Nasdaq: VSAT), a global communications company, announced today it selected SpaceX to launch one of its ViaSat-3 satellite missions. The Viasat mission is scheduled to launch in the 2020 – 2022 timeframe from the Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This mission will launch aboard a Falcon Heavy.
SOLNA, Sweden, October 16, 2018 (Ovzon PR) — In an important step towards growing its satellite service offering, Ovzon has entered into an agreement with SpaceX for launch of Ovzon’s first GEO satellite. The launch is expected to take place no earlier than Q4 2020. The next step for the company is to finalize the procurement of the satellites.
HAWTHORNE, Calif. (SpaceX PR) — SpaceX has signed the world’s first private passenger to fly around the Moon aboard our BFR launch vehicle – an important step toward enabling access for everyday people who dream of traveling to space.
Only 24 humans have been to the Moon in history. No one has visited since the last Apollo mission in 1972. Find out who’s flying and why on Monday, September 17 at 6pm PT.
Editor’s Note: SpaceX announced in February 2017 to send two people around the moon aboard a modified Crew Dragon spacecraft using a Falcon Heavy booster. The two individuals had already paid significant deposits toward the flight, which was to have taken place late this year.
In Febraury 2018, Musk announced that he had scrapped plans to use the Falcon Heavy and Crew Dragon. Instead, the BFR would be used for the cicum-lunar flyby. Musk said earlier this year that BFR could be ready for flights beyond Earth orbit in 2022.
Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9 Payloads: Iridium Next 56-65 communications satellites Launch Time: 7:39:26 a.m. EDT; 4:39:26 a.m. PDT (1139:26 GMT) Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base, California Webcast: www.spacex.com (Coverage begins 20 minutes before launch)
The timing is perfect for folks on the East Coast and in Europe, but not so much for us out here in California. If I can roll out of bed in time, I’ll try to take some video of the Falcon 9 launch from here in Mojave. No promises.
The launch will be the 13th for the Falcon 9 and the 14th flight overall for Elon Musk’s SpaceX in 2018. The company’s other launch was the successful maiden flight of Falcon Heavy in February.
A successful mission on Wednesday will put the United States in a tie with China with 20 launches apiece this year. The two launches will bring the worldwide total to 61 for the year.
Ariane 5 will be launching for the third time this year. It will also be the fourth launch of 2018 from Kourou.
The world’s launch providers were extremely busy in the first half of 2018, with China and the United States battling for the lead.
There with 55 orbital launches through the end of June, which amounted to a launch every 3.29 days or 79 hours. The total is more than half the 90 launches attempted in 2017. With approximately 42 missions scheduled for the last six months of the year, the total could reach 97. (more…)
The draft environmental assessment for SpaceX’s proposed expansion at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) also revealed that Elon Musk’s rocket company plans to most of more than 4,000 satellites of its planned Starlink constellation from Cape Canaveral.
That will guarantee a busy schedule for SpaceX’s Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at KSC and LC-40 at the adjoining Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS). LC-39A can accommodate Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy boosters while LC-40 is configured for the Falcon 9.
LOS ANGELES (SpaceX PR) — Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX), Hawthorne, California, has been awarded a $130,000,000 firm-fixed-price contract, for launch services to deliver the Air Force Space Command-52 satellite to its intended orbit.
This launch service contract will include launch vehicle production and mission, as well as integration, launch operations and spaceflight worthiness activities. Work will be performed in Hawthorne, California; Kennedy Space Center, Florida; and McGregor, Texas, and is expected to be completed by September 2020.
This award is the result of a competitive acquisition, and two proposals were received. Fiscal 2018 space procurement funds in the amount of $130,000,000 will be obligated at the time of award. The Contracting Division, Launch Systems Enterprise Directorate, Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, California, is the contracting activity (FA8811-18-C-0003). (Awarded June 20, 2018)
To accommodate its growing launch operations, SpaceX has proposed a substantial expansion of its operations at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, including a launch and landing control center, a processing and storage facility for its boosters and fairings, and a rocket garden.
“SpaceX estimates there may be up to ten events per year for a Falcon Heavy launch, and up to 63 landings (54 Falcon 9 single core landings and nine Falcon Heavy triple core landings) at the current CCAFS landing site or on the SpaceX drone ship,” according to a draft environmental assessment released by NASA KSC’s Integrated Mission Support Services.
Weapon Systems Annual Assessment Knowledge Gaps Pose Risks to Sustaining Recent Positive Trends
Government Accountability Office April 2018 Full Report (PDF)
Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) Program
Technology Maturity, Design Stability, and Production Readiness
All but one (14 of 15) of ULA’s launch vehicle variants—which are based on payload fairing size and number of strap-on solid rocket boosters used—and two variants of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 have flown at least once, demonstrating technology maturity. For design stability and production readiness, the program assesses launch vehicles using Aerospace Corporation’s “3/7 reliability rule.” Once a variant is launched successfully three times, its design can be considered stable and mature. Similarly, if a variant is successfully launched seven times, both the design and production process can be considered stable and mature.
The first mission to explore Trojan asteroids that orbit in tandem with Jupiter is moving forward toward a late 2021 launch date using heritage hardware that has already been tested in space, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) assessment.
“Project officials characterize the Lucy design as low risk because it does not require development of any critical technologies and has a high heritage design,” the GAO found. “For example, these officials stated that Lucy’s design has the same architecture as prior NASA projects such as Juno and the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission (MAVEN).